On the agenda: Capital budget, Blatchford, police audit

· The Pulse

This week, council will discuss the capital budget, a police audit, and the one councillor's proposal to consider selling land at Blatchford.

There is a public hearing scheduled for June 10, a city council meeting scheduled for June 11 with a continuation on June 12, and a city manager recruitment committee scheduled for June 12.

Here are key items on the agenda:

  • City administration recommends increasing the 2023-2026 capital budget by $262.6 million in the spring capital budget adjustment, scheduled for debate on June 11. Administration said a $175-million grant from the federal government to implement a housing action plan will cover most of the increase. (Recently, the hosts of Speaking Municipally, Taproot's civic affairs podcast, spoke to Christel Kjenner about the new team that's tasked with achieving the plan.) There are new projects and increases in scope that require budget adjustments, like an additional $7 million to replace and renew buses, and $4.5 million for LRT cars. The proposed adjustment also includes an increase of $23.3 million for the Edmonton Police Service, for expenses like body armour and IT systems, though some of that funding is covered by a federal grant.
  • The Edmonton Police Commission said it will not provide city council with information about the Edmonton Police Service's internal audit plan. "The audit plan has traditionally been an inward facing document and we feel a public facing audit program will diminish overall effectiveness," the commission wrote in a letter that will be discussed at a council meeting scheduled for June 11. "We have full confidence in our current audit function under direction of the commission." Coun. Anne Stevenson, who sits on the commission, spoke to Global News in her capacity as a councillor about her disappointment in the decision. "I feel there's some great work that happens through the audit function, but Edmontonians don't get to see that."
  • Coun. Tim Cartmell is set to push council to in turn ask administration to calculate how much money the city could make if it sold undeveloped sections of Blatchford to private developers. Cartmell is scheduled to introduce a motion on June 11 that asks for a report about maintaining Blatchford policies for the existing homes and allowing private companies to develop the remaining land outside those policies. Cartmell's 12 colleagues on council will either need to support, amend, or strike down the motion.
Row housing in Blatchford.

Coun. Tim Cartmell wants the city's administration to examine selling off the undeveloped sections of Blatchford. (City of Edmonton)

Here are some other items on the agenda:

  • The University of Alberta's plan to develop West 240 on a 200-acre parcel of agricultural land it owns, situated west of 122 Street, east of the Whitemud Creek Ravine, and between the Lansdowne and Grandview Heights neighbourhoods, could gain traction on June 11, when city council votes on whether to allow it to develop a required statutory plan. In May, city council's urban planning committee recommended that council approve the University of Alberta Properties Trust's request to create a new statutory plan — specifically, a neighbourhood area structure plan — for the West 240 development. Such a plan determines where municipal services like water systems, roads, schools, and parks will be provided in new developments. The plan also sets housing density targets and identifies how development will be staged over time.
  • Coun. Sarah Hamilton is set to introduce a motion that asks administration to amend the council procedures bylaw so that council agendas are available the Thursday before the meeting, rather the current requirement of 10 days before. Hamilton's motion will also ask that the bylaw requires councillors attending a meeting virtually must have their cameras on without a virtual background when speaking, asking a question, or voting.
  • A proposed amendment to the zoning bylaw would increase the minimum number of trees on narrow lots from one to two, but administration recommends council does not approve the change. The bylaw report, scheduled to be examined at a public hearing on June 10, said the front yards of lots less than eight metres across are generally too small for two trees, especially if they have a front garage. With limited root space, trees may not survive for their full life span, administration said. The city reviewed 138 low-density infill projects and found less than 30% complied with the minimum number of trees in the zoning bylaw.
  • Administration has prepared bylaw amendments that would exempt some regulations for office-to-residential conversions. Four recent conversions received variances, such as requiring fewer loading spaces and trees, and less amenity space. Administration proposes changing the zoning bylaw so that these exemptions will apply to all office-to-residential conversions. Council is scheduled to vote on the amendments at a public hearing on June 10. Earlier this year, council voted against providing financial incentives for such conversions.
  • City council is scheduled to vote on changing speed limits on several streets, including some deemed unsafe, on June 11. Speed-limit changes are proposed for 41 Avenue SW between Desrochers Drive SW and 170 Street SW, 127 Street SW between 73 Avenue SW and 41 Avenue SW, and 170 Street NW between Ellerslie Road SW and 41 Avenue SW. Further proposed changes include adding playground zones at the new Edmonton Classical Academy and STEM Collegiate School.
  • More than 800 properties are eligible for auction after their owners neglected to pay taxes for more than two years. Administration said owners typically pay outstanding balances once informed they may lose their property, but it's likely a small amount of properties will end up being auctioned. At a council meeting on June 11, administration will present the proposed auction terms for council approval.
  • Council is scheduled to vote on small changes to three bylaws on June 11. Twice a year, administration reviews bylaws, policies, and motions that are out of date, no longer relevant, or need corrections, and recommends council approve the changes. Administration also recommends council approve rescinding more than two dozen council motions. Many of the motions asked administration for reports and updates on municipal activity. Administration's justification to ask for almost all these motions to be rescinded is their "alignment with strategic priorities."
  • Administration is seeking council approval to sell a 19-acre parcel of land in the Schonsee neighbourhood at 16704 66 Street NW. Seven applicants have made offers on the property.
  • On June 11, council is scheduled to meet in private to talk about reporting on intergovernmental activities — specifically, being appointed to external agencies. Councillors are also set to receive a private update on city manager recruitment.

Meetings stream live on YouTube on the Chamber channel and River Valley Room channel.